Obrazy na stronie

union of audacity and sobriety. The promises which he made to mankind might, to a superficial reader, seem to resemble the rants which a great dramatist has put into the mouth of an Oriental conqueror half-crazed by good fortune and by violent passions,

"He shall have chariots easier than air,
Which I will have invented; and thyself
That art the messenger shall ride before him,
On a horse cut out of an entire diamond,

That shall be made to go with golden wheels,
I know not how yet.'

But Bacon performed what he promised. In truth, Fletcher would not have dared to make Arbaces promise, in his wildest fits of excitement, the tithe of what the Baconian philosophy has performed.

The true philosophical temperament may, we think, be described in four words-much hope, little faith; a disposition to believe that any thing, however extraordinary, may be done: an indisposition to believe that any thing extraordinary has been done. In these points the constitution of Bacon's mind seems to us to have been absolutely perfect. He was at once the Maminon and the Surly of his friend Ben. Sir Epicure did not indulge in visions more magnificent and gigantic. Surly did not sift evidence with keener and more sagacious incredulity.

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Closely connected with this peculiarity of Bacon's temper was a striking peculiarity of his understanding. With great minuteness of observation he had an amplitude of comprehension such as has never yet been vouchsafed to any other human being. The small fine mind of Labruyère had not a more delicate tact than the large intellect of Bacon. The Essays' contain abundant proofs that no nice feature of character, no peculiarity in the ordering of a house, a garden, or a court-masque, could escape the notice of one whose mind was capable of taking in the whole world of knowledge. His understanding resembled the tent which the fairy Paribanou gave to Prince Ahmed. Fold it, and it seemed a toy for the hand of a lady. Spread it, and the armies of powerful Sultans might repose beneath its shade.

În keenness of observation he has been equalled, though perhaps never surpassed. But the largeness of his mind was all his own. The glance with which he surveyed the intellectual universe resembled that which the Archangel, from the golden threshold of Heaven, darted down into the new creation.

'Round he surveyed-and well might, where he stood

So high above the circling canopy

Of night's extended shade,—from eastern point

Of Libra, to the fleecy star which bears

Andromeda far off Atlantic seas,

Beyond the horizon.'



His knowledge differed from that of other men, as a Terrestrial Globe differs from an Atlas which contains a different country on every leaf. The towns and roads of England, France and Germany are better laid down in the atlas than in the globe. while we are looking at England we see nothing of France; and while we are looking at France we see nothing of Germany. We may go to the atlas to learn the bearings and distances of York and Bristol, or of Dresden and Prague. But it is useless if we want to know the bearings and distances of France and Martinique, or of England and Canada. On the globe we shall not find all the market-towns in our own neighbourhood; but we shall learn from it the comparative extent and the relative position of all the kingdoms of the earth. I have taken,' said Bacon, in a letter written when he was only thirty-one, to his uncle Lord Burleigh I have taken all knowledge to be my province.' any other young man, indeed in any other man, this would have been a ridiculous flight of presumption. There have been thousands of better mathematicians, astronomers, chemists, physicians, botanists, mineralogists, than Bacon. No man would go to Bacon's works to learn any particular science or art; any more than he would go to a twelve-inch globe in order to find his way from Kennington turnpike to Clapham Common. The art which Bacon taught was the art of inventing arts. The knowledge in which Bacon excelled all men, was a knowledge of the mutual relations of all departments of knowledge.


The mode in which he communicated his thoughts was exceedingly peculiar. He had no touch of that disputatious temper which he often censured in his predecessors. He effected a vast intellectual revolution in opposition to a vast mass of prejudices; yet he never engaged in any controversy :-nay, we cannot at present recollect, in all his philosophical works, a single passage of a controversial character. All those works might with propriety have been put into the form which he adopted in the work entitled Cogitata et visa- Franciscus Baconus sie cogitavit.'These are thoughts which have occurred to me :-weigh them well-and take them or leave them.

Borgia said of the famous expedition of Charles the Eighth, that the French had conquered Italy, not with steel, but with chalk; for that the only exploit which they had found necessary for the purpose of taking military occupation of any place, had been to mark the doors of the houses where they meant to quarBacon often quoted this saying, and loved to apply it to the victories of his own intellect. His philosophy, he said,


Norum Organum, Lib. 1, Aph. 35, and elsewhere.

came as a guest, not as an enemy. She found no difficulty in obtaining admittance, without a contest, into every understanding fitted, by its structure and by its capacity, to receive her. In all this we think that he acted most judiciously-first, because, as he has himself remarked, the difference between his school and other schools was a difference so fundamental that there was hardly any common ground on which a controversial battle could be fought; and, secondly, because his mind, eminently observant, pre-eminently discursive and capacious, was, we conceive, neither formed by nature, nor disciplined by habit, for dialectical combat.

Though Bacon did not arm his philosophy with the weapons of logic, he adorned her profusely with all the richest decorations of rhetoric. His eloquence, though not untainted with the vicious taste of his age, would alone have entitled him to a high rank in literature. He had a wonderful talent for packing thought close and rendering it portable. In wit, if by wit be meant the power of perceiving analogies between things which appear to have nothing in common, he never had an equal,—not even Cowley, not even the author of Hudibras. Indeed, he possessed this faculty, or rather this faculty possessed him, to a morbid degree. When he abandoned himself to it without reserve, as he did in the Sapientia Veterum, and at the end of the second book of the De Augmentis, the feats which he performed were not merely admirable, but portentous, and almost shocking. On those occasions we marvel at him as clowns on a fair-day marvel at a juggler, and can hardly help thinking that the devil must be in him.

These, however, were freaks in which his ingenuity now and then wantoned, with scarcely any other object than to astonish and amuse. But it occasionally happened that, when he was engaged in grave and profound investigations, his wit obtained the mastery over all his other faculties, and led him into absurdities into which no dull man could possibly have fallen. We will give the most striking instance which at present occurs to us. In the third book of the De Augmentis he tells us that there are some principles which are not peculiar to one science, but are common to several. That part of philosophy which concerns itself with these principles, is, in his nomenclature, designated as philosophia prima. He then proceeds to mention some of the principles with which this philosophia prima is conversant. One of them is this. An infectious disease is more likely to be communicated while it is in progress than when it has reached its height. This, says he, is true in medicine. It is also true in morals; for we see that the example of very abandoned men injures public morality less than the example of men in whom vice has not yet extin


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guished all good qualities. Again-he tells us that in music a discord endingin a concord is agreeable, and that the same thing may be noted in the affections. Once more he tells us, that in physics the energy with which a principle acts is often increased by the antiperistasis of its opposite; and that it is the same in the contests of factions. If this be indeed the philosophia prima, we are quite sure that the greatest philosophical work of the nineteenth century is Mr Moore's 'Lalla Rookh.' The similitudes which we have cited are very happy similitudes. But that a man like Bacon should have taken them for more,—that he should have thought the discovery of such resemblances as these an important part of philosophy,-has always appeared to us one of the most singular facts in the history of letters.

The truth is, that his mind was wonderfully quick in perceiving analogies of all sorts. But, like several eminent men whom we could name, both living and dead, he sometimes appeared strangely deficient in the power of distinguishing rational from fanciful analogies,-analogies which are arguments from analogies which are mere illustrations,-analogies like that which Bishop Butler so ably pointed out between natural and revealed religion, from analogies like that which Addison discovered between the series of Grecian gods carved by Phidias, and the series of English kings painted by Kneller. This want of discrimination has led to many strange political speculations. Sir William Temple deduced a theory of government from the properties of the pyramid. Mr Southey's whole system of finance is grounded on the phenomena of evaporation and rain. In theology this perverted ingenuity has made still wilder work. From the time of Irenæus and Origen, down to the present day, there has not been a single generation in which great divines have not been led into the most absurd expositions of Scripture, by mere incapacity to distinguish analogies proper,-to use the scholastic phrase, from analogies metaphorical.* It is curious that Bacon has himself mentioned this very kind of delusion among the idola specus; and has mentioned it in language which, we are inclined to think, indicates that he knew himself to be subject to it. It is the vice, he tells us, of subtle minds to attach too much importance to slight distinctions;-it is the vice, on the other hand, of high and discursive intellects to attach too much importance to slight resemblances; and he adds, that when this last propensity is indulged to excess, it leads men to catch at shadows instead of substances.+

See some interesting remarks on this subject in Bishop's Berkeley's • Minute Philosopher.' Dialogue IV.

Novum Organum, Lib. 1. Aph. 55.

Yet we cannot wish that Bacon's wit had been less luxuriant. For, to say nothing of the pleasure which it affords,-it was in the vast majority of cases employed for the purpose of making obscure truth plain-of making repulsive truth attractive-of fixing in the mind for ever truth which might otherwise have made but a transient impression.

The poetical faculty was powerful in Bacon's mind; but not, like his wit, so powerful as occasionally to usurp the place of his reason, and to tyrannize over the whole man. No imagination was ever at once so strong and so thoroughly subjugated. It never stirred but at a signal from good sense. It stopped at the first check from good sense. Yet though disciplined to such obedience, it gave noble proofs of its vigour. In truth, much of Bacon's life was passed in a visionary world, amidst things as strange as any that are described in the Arabian Tales,' or in those romances on which the curate and barber of Don Quixote's village performed so cruel an auto-da-fe,—amidst buildings more sumptuous than the palace of Aladdin,-fountains more wonderful than the golden water of Parizade,-conveyances more rapid than the hippogryph of Ruggiero,-arms more formidable than the lance of Astolfo,-remedies more efficacious than the balsam of Fierabras. Yet in his magnificent day-dreams there was nothing wild, nothing but what sober reason sanctioned. He knew that all the secrets feigned by poets to have been written in the books of enchanters, are worthless when compared with the mighty secrets which are really written in the book of nature, and which, with time and patience, will be read there. He knew that all the wonders wrought by all the talismans in fable were trifles when compared to the wonders which might reasonably be expected from the philosophy of fruit; and, that if his words sank deep into the minds of men, they would produce effects such as superstition had never ascribed to the incantations of Merlin and Michael Scot. It was here that he loved to let his imagination loose. He loved to picture to himself the world as it would be when his philosophy should, in his own noble phrase, have en'larged the bounds of human empire.'* We might refer to many instances. But we will content ourselves with the strongestthe description of the House of Solomon' in the New Atlantis." By most of Bacon's contemporaries, and by some people of our time, this remarkable passage would, we doubt not, be considered as an ingenious rhodomontade,-a counterpart to the adventures of Sinbad or Baron Munchausen. The truth is, that there is not

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